Q. Every morning I wake up afraid. My body is getting weaker, and my resources are shrinking. I'm afraid of what will happen in the future. How can I overcome my fear?
A. To feel fear when there is a threat is entirely appropriate. The threat of a continued economic downturn, the experience of aging with the possibility of diminished capacity, and the lack of adequate financial resources to meet these challenges is a reality many people face today. So why do some respond with fear of the future, while others live in trust that things will work out?
No doubt some people are blessed with a naturally optimistic outlook combined with a rock-solid faith in God and the goodness of humanity in times of need. For the rest of us, saying no to fear is a challenge that requires determination and effort to overcome.
To meet that challenge, begin by examining what threats are "real." List what your financial resources are now (including your assets, such as your house or car if you own these), as well as your expenses. Then determine whether you are living within your means. Decide that you can (and must) make the necessary changes in your lifestyle to meet the demands of this list.
Make another list of the things that you fear but that you know are not under your control, such as your health and your employment before retirement age.
Take care of your body through healthy eating and exercise and your mental health by relaxing with family and friends and doing activities you enjoy. To avoid feeling isolated, talk about your fears with friends who might be in the same boat.
Above all, give your fears to Christ. Ask him for more faith to trust that he knows your needs and sees you as his beloved child whose future he desires to prosper. Before going to sleep, say to yourself several times (even out loud) something like this: "Even though I don't know what the future will bring, I am safe in God's hands." Let it sink in, and let your spirit drink in the peace that God promises when we trust in him. When you wake up, say "no" to fear if you notice it is there, and dedicate your day to God.
Trust also that your church family will want to help you—financially or otherwise—if your resources become inadequate to meet your basic needs (housing, food, medical/dental care). Resist feeling shame and accept that giving your church family the opportunity to assist you blesses both of you.
We cannot know the future, but we do know, personally, the King in charge of that future.
Q. My church may be moving to a multisite video venue. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Will I miss out on anything?
A. Great question. Surveys show that multisite churches outnumber megachurches in the United States today. But we should differentiate between multisite churches that rely solely on video and those that have live teaching at each venue. There are pluses and minuses to each.
One of the pluses is that a large church can create smaller, more intimate communities by initiating additional sites. The downside is that the congregation is never in the same room with the preacher, and he or she becomes "larger than life" on the screen. This contributes to the increasing celebrity culture that surrounds pastors of large churches. The pastor is seen not as a friend or a teacher but as "the guy on TV." This separates preaching from context— which was never intended. New Testament preaching by Paul and others was, more often than not, context-specific; it came from a person who knew the community well.
On his blog "Reclaiming the Mission," pastor and professor David Fitch wrote an insightful article on what he calls the "video venue farce." His main concern is that video decontextualizes and commodifies preaching so that it becomes seen as simply information exchange, rather than a Word of God from within that community to that community.
There are many avenues today to receive teaching through various media. I am thankful, for example, for the ability to download podcasts of sermons from people I enjoy. But perhaps we should not too quickly abandon the kind of teaching that comes from someone we know and someone who knows us. That intimacy is often exactly what God uses to speak his words into our lives.